Egremont town history
Egremont, the name of this small market town is a name derived from the latin meaning – Egre ‘river Ehen’ Mont ‘small hill’ or small hill next to the river Ehen.
It is a picturesque town, sitting at the foot of Dent fell and the edge of the Uldale valley. Many amazing views of the town can be seen from the surrounding valley sides. The town is only 8km (4.5miles) from the port town of Whitehaven (famous 17th cenury harbour port- www.whitehaventowncouncil.co.uk, 4km from the historical priory of St.Bees (2.5miles – www.stbees.org.uk ), 8km from Ravenglass (4.5miles)Where the Ratty rail way is and a short walk to Muncaster castle park- www.muncaster.co.uk ).
The town has a ancient history and was a small village for centuries but when the Danes established themselves in the 10th century they built a fort. in the 12th century, after the Norman conquest the area of Copeland (or Kaupland from norse meaning bought land) was given by royal decree to Rufus de Meschines, who after brief barony bequeathed the area to his brother William de Meschines.
After establishing his barony of the area William decided to make the the village of Egremont the capital and began the process of building a castle on a hill that gave him a clear stategic advantage over the hostile local inhabitants and incursions from Scotland. In the 13th century Copeland was absorbed into the much larger county of Cumberland.
The lordship of Egremont has passed on through nine noble families-
1stWhen William Rufus extended Norman rule into Cumbria in around 1092, control of the area was given to Ivo Taillebois, who was married to Lucy of Bolingbroke, heiress of extensive lands in Lincolnshire. When Ivo died in 1094, this authority passed to Lucy’s second husband Roger fitz Gerold de Roumare, who survived for only two more years, then to her third husband Ranulph le Meschines. On his becoming the Earl of Chester, his estates were returned to the Crown towards paying for the earldom. Around 1120, Henry I gave the Barony of Copeland to Ranulph’s son William who made his home at Egremont and began to build the castle, which took approximately 150 years to complete. The Barony was inherited by William’s son Ranulph . With Ranulph having no male heir, the Barony passed to his sister Alice, who married William Fitzduncan; they had a child who, after his death, became known as “the Boy of Egremont”; again, with no living male heir, William Fitzduncan’s estates passed to his three daughters Annabel, Cecily and Alice.
The estates passed down to Annabel’s son Richard de Lucy. Richard’s two daughters married two brothers of the de Multon family, Alice (now called de Morville) married Alan de Multon and Annabel (also now called de Morville) married Lambert de Multon. Annabel and Lambert de Multon inherited the Barony of Copeland and again, the castle had a lord in residence.When the last male Multon died in 1335, one of the co-heiresses married Thomas Lucy, grandson of Thomas Multon. Anthony, the last Lord Lucy, died in 1369, and the lands passed to his brother-in-law Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland, staying with the Percy family and its successors ever since. The present lord is John Max Henry Scawen Wyndham, Baron Egremont and Baron Leconfield, who lives in the family home, one of the earliest Percy possessions: Petworth House in West Sussex. The dowager Lady Egremont, Pamela, lives at Cockermouth Castle.
Richard de Lucy enlarged the village to become a town. Much of the layout of roads and pathways in Egremont town centre are still the same today as they were when Richard first constructed them.
The town was granted a market town charter in 1266 by King Henry III. It is from this time that the crab fair became established to honor the yearly harvest of this bitter sweat apple. Court jesters and other entertainments would occur. This annual event eventually lead to the gurning championships which still survive to this day (link to crab fair website and info).
Many of the hils, roads, forests, villiages and hamlets bare names directly related to the many Lords of the areas history. After Robert the Bruce attacked the town in 1322 peace eventually lead to the castles abandonment and its eventual fall into disrepair and ruin.
In 1565, a stone bridge was built over the River Ehen to access the town, which was now smaller because of frequent Scottish raids. Little changed for a century, until new stone buildings appeared on the Main Street, probably built with stone from the castle. In 1683, Edward Benn and his heirs were given land with the provision that they rebuild the stone bridge and maintain it for ever.
In 1748, another bridge was built at Briscoe Mill at a cost of £28-15s-0d, paid for by John Pearson, a local hatter. Soon Egremont began to service the Port of Whitehaven and in 1830, iron ore was mined over several sites.
Lord Leconfield leased the castle ruins to the urban district council on August 19th 1913. For the centinury in 2013 there was comemorative rienactment of the ceremony. The castle was saved from falling further into ruin and made into a park.
Egremont has always had an ancient history in quarying, mining as well as agriculture and dyeing. There are many quaries and mines surrounding the town- Florence mine is the last deep iron ore mine in western europe (this is still a working mine and can be visited daily- there is a cafe and musuem. Many music and craft events occur throughout the year – Link to Florence mine website).
Egremonts quaries were noted for the quality of its red sandstone. The sandstone from Egremont was used in the construction of Windsor castle. With the growing need for iron ore during the early 20th century mining increased exponentially. By the mid 1920’s a series of railways began to be built, eventually they criss-crossed the whole of copeland. Initially ony what was mined was transported on the lines eventually it took passengers to well. by the 1970’s the railways fell into disuse eventually becoming the cycle paths that you see and use today.
Over the next 60 years new schools, churches and the town hall were built. New housing estates were also built to accommodate the growing town, with many old parts of the town being demolished in 1968.
In 1964, Wyndham School was built, the first comprehensive school to be built in the British Isles. In 1970, there was a large increase in workers moving into the town to work on the new nuclear site (Egremont is the gateway town to the west cumbrian nuclear industry).
In 1990, the Egremont by-pass was opened and the mainstreet was altered and some statues added to comemorate the towns industrial history
For further information visit Lowes court or their website:- http://lowescourt.co.uk/